Extensive compressor reviews and FAQ

Ashdown Dual-Band: The features of this pedal have a strong resemblance to the Trace Elliot SMX dual-band comp. That's not too surprising, since one or two former TE engineers went to work for Ashdown around the time this pedal was developed. Dual-band systems use a crossover to divide your signal into high and low frequency ranges (bands). Each band then gets compressed individually, and the two signals are mixed back to one mono output.
 
Initial reviews of the Ashdown version were not so good because it only worked with low-output basses; anything with hotter output would cause the pedal to distort. However they later redesigned it so the newer ones don't distort quite as easily. There is no outward sign to indicate that change, so you will need to rely on luck when buying a used one.
 
It has an input level knob, and separate knobs for the amount of compression per band. These are actually a bit confusing because turning one of them counterclockwise seems to cut the level of the signal in that frequency range, instead of just altering the amount of compression. So they seem to actually be gain controls, increasing the level of your signal into a fixed threshold as you turn the knobs clockwise. The Punch Factory works the same way. I don't like it, it's counterintuitive and liable to confuse anyone who is just starting out with compression. For example, the maximum ratio is 8:1, but does the comp knob change the ratio too? The manual just says the knobs adjust the "degree of compression", but that can mean many things. And if they just control levels, then isn't the master input level knob redundant? There is a VU meter to monitor the input signal level, and it "works", but it is inaccurate and mostly just decorative.
 
It also has a tilting EQ knob, which either boosts lows while cutting highs, or vice versa. The effect is pretty intense--very small adjustments yield lots of boost and cut, and the only time it sounded good to me was either flat, or with a very slight tilt to the bass side. I wish it had a center detent, or could be bypassed.
 
The fixed attack time on the low band is kind of slow, so if you play slap a lot of your spiky hits will still get through and clip your amp. This pedal is better suited to light/moderate compression. In spite of my criticisms, I was able to get a sound I liked a lot by setting both high and low comp knobs at about 2:00, and the EQ knob near 11:50. There the tone is clear and full, with fairly low noise and very little rolloff of highs or lows. In fact it sounds big and fat in the low-mids. Setting both high and low comp to maximum is a very strong modern sound, though kind of artificial.
 
It runs on standard Boss-type 9V DC, and the footswitch is "true bypass". The construction quality is decent, but not quite as rugged as they'd like you to believe. For example, the VU meter is attached to the body with double-sided tape. The body measures about 6" x 5.5", much larger than the common Barber/Empress medium-sized pedals, but a little bit smaller than the Markbass.
 
Price in USD: new $129 (though I think it is discontinued), used $35 to $60
 

 

 
 
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